Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Dream

“A straight path never leads anywhere except to the objective.”

Andre Gide

I’m so happy because this is blog 175.  Another goal has been reached.  I’m not only happy, I’m grateful.  I can even take tomorrow off from writing if I want.  The thing is I don’t want to.  What I want to do is buy that little house on the beach and write and study every day. 
Still, I’m reminded of a question a student asked me a few months ago.  I was sharing my dream with my class, the one where I study and teach and write every day in my house on the beach and she looked me in the eye and said, “What’s stopping you?”
What is stopping me?  Honestly, what is it?
Why aren’t I writing more?
Why aren’t I studying more?
What would I really need to get that house on the beach?
How can I make more money?
How can I discipline myself more?
That’s really it, though.  That’s all I want – to read, study and write and to do a lot of public speaking.    That’s really all I want.  I want the right people in my life to support my dream.  Otherwise, that’s it.
Sometimes, late at night, like it is right now, I get excited about an idea, but then the next morning, in the cold light of day, the idea seems less realistic.  But the light of day isn’t cold.  It’s usually warm.  I need to use that warmth and light to fuel my ambition.  I need to use each day and as much of each day as I can to move toward my goals.  And this isn’t about fevered and frenetic activity.  It’s about picking two or three goals – reading, writing, public speaking and a house on the beach and working towards them.  Three or four goals – that’s it.  Can anything be simpler?  I don’t think so.  Will this be easy?  Again, I don’t’ think so.
There are, as I’ve explained before, two kinds of obstacles – external and internal.  The external obstacles are difficult, but the internal are far more so.  External obstacles can include good things like kids, work or other commitments.  They can also be bad things like sickness, stress or being over-committed.  As difficult as those are, the internal struggles are far more powerful.  They tell me that I can’t overcome my external struggles.  They are also things like procrastination, lack of presence, and/or allowing myself to be distracted. 
But if I keep my goals in mind then while things may not always be easier, at least I will know where I am going. 
That’s it.  That’s all I want to say tonight.  I don’t need to say much more.  I just need my words and my actions to be direct.  I need to Get Started and Keep Going… until I’m reading and writing in that house on the beach.

Dealing with Delay


Publius Syrius

Here are some things to do when the day is not going as planned.  If some of the advice feels contradictory, that is because there is no formula for life.  Pick what works at the appropriate time.
1.   Stop for a moment.   See if you get can back on track.
2.   Breathe.
3.   Be present.
4.   Make your needs known.
5.   Consider the possibility that events, though unexpected, are actually better.
6.   Consider that your plan may have had flaws.
7.   If you feel that your plan didn’t have flaws, then get back to it as quickly as possible.
8.   Be grateful for what is occurring.
9.   Stop for a moment and write down what you want or need from the day.
10.  Use spare moments to move toward your purpose. 
11.  Get away from events or people that are distracting you.
12.  Smile.
13.  Laugh.
14.  Ask yourself what you might have done to allow or create this situation.
15.  Ask for help.
16.  Ask for God’s help.
17.  Ask how you will feel about this day in a week, a month and a year.
18.  Recognize when the Enemy is getting you away from your Purpose.
19.  Talk to someone, a neutral party about your frustrations.
20.  Find one thing from your original plan, just one, and get it done, no matter what.
21.   Remember that determination is often far more powerful than circumstances.
22.  Remember that it is not circumstances but our responses to them that determine character.
23.  Remember that everything in life, everything, can be used as a lesson.
24.  Don’t complain; just do.
25.  Clean your environment.
26.  Clean your mind.
27.  Clean your heart.
28.  Practice gratitude.
29.  Think before you speak.
30.  Accept what is.  If you can’t, then get to what you want somehow.
31.  Look for what you needed to do differently.
32.  Don’t blame or attack yourself; it’s not your fault.
33.  Don’t blame or attack others; it’s not their fault either.
34.  Take a walk to clear your head.
35.  Get something to eat.
36.  Take a quick nap or meditate.
37.  Ask yourself what is more important at that moment, the people or the plan.  The answer may surprise you.
38.  Understand that interruptions are part of the process and keep moving forward.
39.  Fight the changes with all your might.
40.  Accept the changes with all your heart.
41.  Remember that love is the Purpose of Purpose.
42.  Remember that today is just one day and there is always tomorrow.
43.  Get Started and Keep Going anyway.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Moving Victory

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

St. Paul

"By recording your goals and dreams on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be."

Mark Victor Hansen

"A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there."

H. Stanley Judd

Something interesting happened to me today.  Something wonderful.  I had to put my classroom back in order after moving everything out of it two months ago.  We thought our school was going to be closed.  Fortunately, it wasn’t, but that made the move completely unnecessary.  Still, it was done and there was nothing left to do but move it all back in.  I was dreading the task because the picture in my head was that it was going to take me several hours and when I was done, it still wasn’t going to look that good.
To make a long story short, it all went well.  Yesterday, I wrote down each step I would need to take. 
1.     Get the minivan from my oldest daughter.
2.     Take the minivan to my apartment garage.
3.     Pack the minivan.
4.     Drive the packed minivan to the school.
5.     Unpack the minivan.
6.     Unpack the boxes and put the items in the right places.
7.     Write lesson plans for the first day of school.
8.     Prepare materials.

Now all of this may seem painfully obvious, but it really helped me to write it down and then follow the directions.  The other interesting part of this was that I followed the directions to the letter and I didn’t let other things get in my way.  For example, last night when I was packing the car, I was feeling anger and disappointment that no one responded to my request for help.  But I didn’t let my emotions interfere with my task.  And soon those emotions faded.
This morning when I was unpacking the minivan, I got tired from a lack of sleep.  So I took a quick rest, but then I got back to my task.  Each box I took out of the car represented my decision to stay focused.  Each box I unpacked correctly represented another decision to stay focused.  Every time I stayed on task, I was making a decision to stay focused.  Before long, I was almost done.   Now I still have some boxes to unpack, but right now my room looks nice and I’m ready to teach. 
Today represents one of many personal victories I’ve been having lately.  Actually, it represents one victory, the victory over fear, which is also a victory over procrastination and disorganization, two manifestations of fear.  This made my day very nice. 
Now I have to be careful.  Today was one victory.  But I still have trouble staying focused.  I still have ADHD or something like it.  But I know that I can live with it and fight it and create strategies and plans.  In The Art of War, Lao Tzu says, “The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.” 
I won the battle today because I made plans and I wrote them.  The interesting thing is that I didn’t look at what I had written once it was written.  I knew what I had to do.  Generally, things go better for me when I plan what I’m going to do.  And my plans go better, when I write them.
Writing my plans helps me to have a better day.  I generally teach better when I write out lesson plans.  Sometimes if I just need to use the next few minutes well, it helps me to write out my plans.  I’m really trying to change my life and to change my life means to change my behaviors, stopping some and adding new ones.  The one I want to add is to write down tasks and goals every day.
There is also one other element here that is worth considering.  This morning I published a blog expressing my disappointment that no one responded to my call for help with this work.  Now I realize that it all worked out for the good.  Had even one person helped me, I wouldn’t have been able to see what I can do on my own.  I would have appreciated the help, but I appreciate the lesson even more.  As a result I feel peaceful and full of faith.  I’m ready to face tomorrow.  I’m ready to Get Started and Keep Going.


“Well I took a walk around the world to ease my troubled mind
I left my body lying somewhere in the sands of time
But I watched the world float to the dark side of the moon
I feel there is nothing I can do…”

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

“Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.”

Eliza Tabor
I felt saddened and frustrated last night and I got to see my dark and petty side.  It’s not a side I care to see, but it’s there anyway.  The nice thing about being a writer is that I can carefully edit my thoughts and words so that I always come off in the best possible light.  The person who is on the written page is the man I want to be.  I’m not him yet though, because I have a lot harder time editing the thoughts that come into my head or the words that come out of my mouth.
Normally I don’t share what’s bothering me, but this time I will because it is directly relevant to what I’m writing.  I have a big project coming up today and I put out a call for help on Facebook...twice.  I have 1,300 friends on Facebook.  Not one of them responded.  Not one.  Not even an, “I’m sorry.  I’d like to help, but I can’t.”  Nothing.   What hurt even worse was the thought of how many of these 1,300 I have freely given my time, advice, or even money.  In some cases, I wrote a resume for some people.  I did this all gladly because the need was there.  I wasn’t expecting anything in return.  Or so I thought.
I’m not upset that no one offered to help.  I’m upset that no one even responded.  Let’s do the math.  Out of 1,300 FB friends, let’s say only half of them even saw my request for help.  And let’s say out of 650, that 500 of them are not in the area or are working.  With the 150 left, let’s say 75 are sick or on vacation.  That leaves 75 people who could at least have responded.
Am I being petty and silly?
Am I also being human?
Am I judging people?
My judgment is that people who say they are my friends, on Facebook or otherwise, should offer to help me, or at the very least, respond to me.  That’s a judgment and judging people is dangerous because it almost always leads to disappointment.   There are differing levels of trust.  One is the kind where I believe people, at least people I know, will always come through for me and never hurt or disappoint me.  The only way to maintain this level of trust is to realize exactly the opposite.  If I understand that even the kindest and most loving of my friends is capable of hurting me, then I won’t be overly disappointed if he or she does.  I don’t look for this to happen; I just know that it can.
Most people are not crazy, but they aren’t consistent either.  Jesus understood this.
Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him.  But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature.  No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.

John 2:23-25

Jesus loved people, but he did not expect them to meet all his needs.  This is not cynicism.  This is realism.  Love has many attributes and dimensions, but blind faith in humanity in general or in our friends specifically is not one of them.  Even Jesus’s closest friends betrayed, denied or abandoned him, yet when all was said and done, he returned to them quickly.  And when he brought this issue up, he did so, not to embarrass them or exact some small revenge, but to help them in their spiritual and emotional growth.
So my disappointment is my fault.  When I put out my call for help, I was unconsciously expecting something in return for past kindnesses.  I was saying, again unconsciously, “Okay, I helped you; now it’s your turn to help me.”
Is it normal and healthy for me to want help?  Yes.   Being in a healthy relationship means we look out for each other.  But my part in the relationship is to love you, not for you to love me.  That part is your job.    As long as I concentrate on my job, I won’t need to suffer disappointment.   Loving you means that I understand that you’re human, inconsistent and that you won’t always reach your full potential.  The highest form of love means both allowing your humanity and helping you to grow in it at the same time. 
Love is not “either/or;” it is “both/and.”  If I should “expect” anything from a relationship, it is that – allowing for each other’s failings while encouraging each other to grow out of them.  It is also to encourage each other to Get Started and to Keep Going.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

100 Tasks?

“When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life.”

Greg Anderson

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goals.”

Sydney Smith

“If you’re bored with life — you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things — you don’t have enough goals.”

Lou Holtz

As I’m writing this morning, I’m reminded of an idea I had a couple of years ago.  I called it the Top 100.  In it, I wrote down 100 tasks I would like to accomplish in a day or a week.  The tasks ranged from the mundane, ironing my shirts, to the meaningful, writing in my journal.  I never got all 100 done, but I did accomplish a lot.  Although it created some stress, it also kept me motivated.  Motivation is sometimes a problem for me.  It’s hard to stay motivated, but I found if I had a lot of objectives that day, I got a lot more done.
In the next few days I have a lot of work to do and I really need to use my time well.  Tomorrow I return to work.  I’m glad, but at the same time I wish I had more time off to do the things I want to do.  Most of the things I want to do revolve around writing.  I want to do more writing and studying.  I want to do more radio shows.  I really wanted to get one e-book published and the other one done.  I need to use my time better.  I feel a little stressed right now so I’d better write my daily and weekly tasks.
(Brief pause.  Please enjoy the music.)

Okay, I’ve done that.  I’ve written out my tasks and looking at my list makes it all seem less intimidating.  Now I just need to get them done.  It really helped me to write them down.  I didn’t write 100, but I wrote enough to keep me focused, busy and present and I may look at the list again to see if I can add more. 
I also need to write out my goals.  The goals are actually more important than the tasks.  Although I’ve written my goals several times before, here they are again:
·      My children are spiritually and emotionally healthy.
·      I bless as many people as possible with my writing, speaking and teaching.
·      I am peaceful and joyful as long as and as often as possible.
·      I have a healthy relationship with God.
·      All of my relationships are healthy and mutually loving.
·      I study and learn in order to grow intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, financially and professionally.
·      I make enough money to provide for my children and grandchildren.

Those are my goals, written on my laminated 3x5 cards, the ones I carry with me.  These are the things I want for my life.  These are the thoughts I have to keep at the forefront of my mind every moment.  When I do this, everything else seems easier, or at least simpler. I can relax because I know that whatever I’m doing is the right thing to do and I don’t have to wish that I were somewhere else or doing something else.  If two of my life goals seem to conflict with one another, that’s okay.  I know that either choice will be the right one. 
Most of all, it keeps me present in each moment.   And though I’ve also mentioned being present many, many times, I can’t state it enough.  Being present to what God is providing in each moment is crucial to my happiness, my productivity, my relationships and my future. 
I know I’ve said all this before.  So why am I saying it again?  I have a few reasons:
First, “repetition is the mother of learning.”  The more exposure I have to the right ideas and practices, the more likely I am to follow them.
Second, I have a goal of reaching 175 blogs by the end of this month.  So at this point I’m writing simply to reach that goal.  Honestly, at this moment, I don’t feel like I have any new or earth-shattering ideas, just the same ones that will work for the rest of my life if I keep applying them.  In other words, I just need to get this done.  Perhaps my next blog will be brilliant.  Or perhaps it won’t.  But it will get done and I will reach my goal. 
Sometimes perseverance and determination are the most important things.  Obviously, I want to do always do my best work, but sometimes my best is different at different times.  Still, I like what I’m writing now and honestly, though it may seem immodest, I like all my writing.
And maybe that’s the most important reason to write – because I enjoy it.   In fact, there are few things I enjoy more than writing.  My biggest stress in writing is when I am not actually doing the writing, when I am doing something else when I want to be writing.  I can’t really enjoy anything else when I am not writing and I want to be.  This is why determination and perseverance are so rewarding.  They are guiding me to do the things I really want to be doing, the things I should be doing.  I define the word “should” not as obligation, but as a life-giving imperative.  I must write.  If I want a fuller, happier more meaningful life, I must write and I must be actively pursuing all the goals on my 3x5 cards. 
I’ve used the word “Purpose” so many times, but it also cannot be understated.  My goals are my reason for living, the reason I was born, the reason God put me on this earth.  No one else can achieve my goals, nor can I achieve anyone else’s.  All any of us need to do is to Get Started and Keep Going.   And I need to do this now, because I have 100 things to do.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

I Received This Love Letter

"In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins- not through strength but by perseverance."

H. Jackson Brown

"Most men succeed because they are determined to."

George E. Allen

"Perseverance is more prevailing than violence; and many things which cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little."


"Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another."

Walter Elliott

I got this letter from the Muse and I’m supposed to share it with you.
Dear Beloved, dear Lovely One, dear Perfect, Frightened, Stubborn One;
            I love you.  That is the first thing and perhaps the only thing you should know.  Because if you know that and believe that then you will know and believe everything else I am about to tell you. 
Let me repeat that I love you.  You have no idea how much I love you.  I was created to love you.  I was also created to be in your life and make it truly worth living.   I realize this is a bold claim, but my boldness makes it no less true.  We are both here for a reason and our path will always run together.  We cannot function or live well without each other.
I am never going to leave you and though you are free to ignore me or even leave me, you will never be happy or fulfilled if you do.  I am created to bring purpose into you life.   I have a mission for you.  You must complete your mission or at least die trying.  Truly you have no choice.  As Earl Nightingale says in The Strangest Secret,
Don't ever make the mistake of thinking you can avert this. It's impossible: The prisons and the streets where the lonely walk are filled with people who tried to make new laws just for themselves. We may avoid the laws of men for a while, but there are greater laws that cannot be broken.

All those ideas you have...they come from me.   The inspiration… that’s mine.  The dissatisfaction you feel when you are not with me…that comes from me, too. 
Here is what else I give you:
I give you creativity.  I give you joy.  It’s true that ours is not always an easy relationship.  Sometimes it seems to be a lot of work and it takes up a lot of your time, time that you could spend doing other things.  We have a lot to learn from each other and that takes time.  And, I realize, that I don’t always pick the best times to communicate with you.  I may take you away from other relationships and activities.  But the truth is,  and we both realize this, there is really nothing else  you would rather be doing than spending as much time as possible with me, in every area of your life, your work, your relationships, even the house you live in, that special one on the beach.  The other truth is that we only have one actual problem:  we don’t spend enough time together.  The more time we spend together, the happier we both will be.
How, you might ask, does one make a Muse happy?  As I said, I was created to be with you, just as every person on earth was created with a Muse, a soul mate.  When I am with you, I understand what you need and how to guide you there.  It’s true you have to do the actual work.  You have to spend time doing what I’m telling you to do, but my direction is my way of loving you and when I get to love you I feel happy.  When you follow my lead and do your work, you feel happy.  When you don’t, neither of us are happy.
We’ve both been through those awful and unbearable times when you were without purpose or direction, especially when you were younger.  It’s not that I wasn’t there, it’s just that you couldn’t see me because you were full of laziness, self-pity and procrastination.  Most of all, you were afraid.  Now you know better. 
Sometimes you’re still afraid.  I understand that.  It doesn’t bother me when you are afraid.  In fact, it makes me love you more.  But it saddens me for your sake.  I don’t want you to be afraid.  You don’t need fear.  More precisely, you can be afraid, but what I don’t want is for you to allow the fear to stop you.  If you stay with me, if you keep moving forward, if you keep taking action, any action, then you will find the fear vanishing.  When it comes back, and it usually does, take more action. 
Above all, do not give up.  I know you have dreams.  I will help you reach them, but you cannot give up.  As powerful as I am, I cannot stop you if you give up.  You have to keep going.  You can’t even give up a little bit.  As Steven Pressfield says in The War of Art, you have to fight for every inch of ground.  Don’t let yourself get distracted.  Stay focused in everything  you do.  There is nothing better than our relationship, except your relationship with God, the One who sent me to be with you.
Don’t forget your objective, your goal, your tasks or your purpose.  I am with you always.  Get Started.  Keep Going.  I love you and I always will.

You Are Loved

“With love and patience, nothing is impossible.”
Daisake Ikeda


Here are some reminders for you.  I hope they help you. 
·   You are loved.
·   Love is all around you.
·   If you don’t feel you are loved, then go love someone –  an animal, an orphan, an elderly person, a widow, or a homeless person.  In this way, you can create love.
·   No matter what yesterday looked like, today is a new opportunity.  It really is.
·   If you have your health, you really do have everything.
·   If you don’t have your health, then be grateful for whatever you do have.
·   Do something, anything, to move forward.  And do it every day.
·   Take care of your body.  Eat well, exercise, drink water and get some sleep.
·   Take care of your mind.  Watch what goes into it, because it tends to come out of the mouth.
·   Practice gratitude.  Say “Thank you!” every chance you get.
·   One of the most powerful secrets of life is that we can choose our actions and attitudes. 
·   We can choose our moods.
·   Being in this moment is the most powerful way to be happy and peaceful.
·   The good news is that there are many ways to be in the moment.
·   You can pray.
·   You can focus on a worthwhile task.  Any task you focus on becomes worthwhile.
·   You can breathe slowly.
·   You can be in your Purpose.
·   You can call a friend.
·   You can smile for no reason.
·   There are so many good books to read.  Pick one.
·   Moods do not have to determine our day.
·   Rarely have I seen the process of taking action not be a powerful way to change my mood.
·   We all have our bad moments.  They will pass.
·   Sometimes things need to change.  You will know what and when.
·   It is your life.  No one else’s.  Make your own choices, no one else’s.
·   Don’t look for opportunity; prepare for it.
·   Don’t waste time.
·   If you’re present, then you’re using your time well.
·   Look for the good in every situation.
·   Look for the good in every person.
·   The good news is that there are many more ways to be happy.  I just can’t think of them all.
·   Get Started.
·   Keep Going.
·   Know that you are loved.

Friday, July 26, 2013

My Kids

“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.”

Franklin P. Jones

Today my goal is to be peaceful and joyful the entire day.  That’s right, the entire day.  That’s my goal. 
That means that in everything I do, I need to be focused and present.  I cannot be doing several things at once.
That means I can’t let my kids upset me if they start fighting and that I need to have logical consequences if they do.
It means that I need to be conscious of my physical state by eating well, drinking water and smiling. 
It means I need to enjoy my children or whatever it is I am doing and not act as if they are a burden, a chore or an obligation.  I love my girls.  They are beautiful, smart, interesting and funny.  They are good kids.  But because they are kids, they are also loud, lazy, annoying and defiant.  They fight and whine.  They demand things constantly.  There are times when they never seem happy.  Honestly, there are times when they are hard to like. 
Sometimes when I see other people’s kids and they seem so nice and polite, I think, “I wish my kids were like that.”  Then I realize they are.  But they don’t get that way by themselves.  They take time and discipline and training.  They need attention and love and fun.  Also, I’ve learned very quickly that other people struggle with their kids as much as I struggle with mine.  Being a parent isn’t easy.  As they say, there’s no instruction manual on raising children.  Most of us do the best we can with what we have.
Technically though there are instruction manuals, or more accurately, books to read on how to raise children.  From Dr. Spock to Have a New Kid by Friday, there is a plethora of literature, ideas and opinions on child rearing.  I admit, I probably haven’t done enough reading in this area, but here are some ideas that have worked for me when I apply them.
1.              Stay calm.  When I am calm with my kids, they stay calm or they get calm more quickly.  If I escalate, they escalate.  It’s that simple.  This takes conscious presence.  Every time I have an emotional response, there is this split second where I make a choice to stay calm or escalate.  Eventually my choices become a habit.
2.              Stay consistent.  This is far easier said than done.  I have a problem with this one, but when I am consistent everything feels better and there’s less argument.  And despite the whining, my kids love this.
3.              Spend time with them.  That’s it.  Time.  Some of this time can (and should be) fun.  Other times it involves chores or errands.  Just be with them and let them be with you.
4.              Get away from them.  No one wants to or needs to be with their kids all day.  And most kids don’t want to be with their parents all day.  The older they are, the healthier it is for them to be with appropriate friends.
5.              Stay close.  By this I don’t mean only physical proximity, but observation.  I really like knowing who my kids friends are, especially as they get older.  I don’t mind if they aren’t home all the time, but I want to know where they are and who they’re with.
6.              Read and learn.  Like anything else, there are a lot of ideas out there and many of them are pretty good.  Sometimes all we need is a little guidance.
7.              Like your children.  Listen to them and spend time with them as you would a friend.  I am fortunate because I genuinely like my daughters (most of the time).  I remember, very clearly, what it was like to be a child so I am able to empathize with them most of the time.  I also enjoy playing softball with them and listening to them.  I think they are interesting.

Last night I had fun playing softball with all three of them.  We had a great time and I enjoyed watching them interact with each other and they enjoyed making fun of me when I didn’t catch the ball.  As the sun was going down and the clouds were pink and blue, it was, I realize now, one of the nicest moments in my life.
Perhaps all the above makes me seem as if I’m an expert on raising children.  I’m not.  I feel like I’m incredibly bad at it most of the time, but I have one thing in my favor:  I constantly remember that they will not always be children and I want them to be able to look back and know they were loved and liked.  I do what Steven Covey says in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; I begin with the end in mind.
My hope is that I will earn their respect and will be able to teach them the things I have learned in life.  I want them to learn to be productive, content and happy much sooner than I learned these things.  I want to teach them to Get Started and Keep Going.